Cord-cutting really is all about saving money. It's not about being easier than a single box with all the channels and bells and whistles. No, it's about watching what you want to watch without spending any more than you have to.
And there are some decently expensive plans available today, hitting $80 — before add-ons — on some of the services. But there also are a number of plans that come in well below that. So we set ourselves a $50 threshold and went out in search of what we can watch.
Below you'll find a synopsis of the major plans that fall below our self-imposed target. Some of them come right up against it. Others cost less than half as much. All have different channels available.
Which one might work best for you? You'll have to answer that for yourself.
The best streaming plans for $50 or less
Sling Orange/Blue ($25 each/$40 for both)
Sling has two basic plans — with some channels overlapping — for $25 each. Or you can get both for $50. The idea is you pick some add-ons after that, and that's where the price can really start creeping upward if you're not too careful. But it lets you pick and choose more categories of channels than pretty much every other service.
And the Orange and Blue plans are decent enough in their own rights.
DirecTV Now Live A Little ($40)
This is the smallest (and least expensive) of DirecTV Now's five main plans. But you still get a lot of channels for that $40 a month (And if you happen to have an unlimited plan on AT&T, you can save a little more money on top of that.)
You'll get more than 60 channels (including locals in selected markets), but none of the regional sports networks.
PlayStation Vue Access ($44.99)/Core ($49.99)
PlayStation Vue has two plans that come in at or below our $50 threshold, and the more expensive of the two builds on the other. Access gets you about 45 channels, and includes things like CNN and ESPN.
Upgrading to Core adds in additional sports channels like the MLB Network, NBA TV, NFL Network, and regional sports. You'll also get the Cooking Channels and some movie channels.
YouTube TV ($40)
YouTube TV is one of the few services that has but a single plan. So there's not a whole lot to think about here. (Unless you want some add-ons.) And while YouTube TV doesn't have the deepest lineup at this price point, it does throw in DVR for free, works great across pretty much every device (well, except for Amazon Fire TV), and probably includes your local channels.
There's Hulu, and then there's Hulu Live. One is the stable of original series like The Handmaid's Tale, plus scores of old-school TV shows, and the other is live channels from today. It doesn't necessarily have the deepest bench for the price, but on the other hand it's hard to get live TV and that same degree of back catalog in a single service.
The $40 Hulu Live plan includes commercials, the $44 plan gets rid of them. DVR costs extra.
Philo is one of the least expensive plans you can find before you hit the rock-bottom price of free. You get 40 channels for just $16 a month, or 49 channels for $4 more. It's tough to beat that, and it's a decent lineup considering how little it costs. Why isn't everyone using Philo, then? For one, it's not available on as many devices as we'd like. And even 50 channels is sort of on the skimpy end.
If you want a lot of sports and don't want to pay an arm and a leg to get them, there's Fubo TV. And Fubo actually does have a pretty diverse lineup even if you don't opt for the more expensive of the two plans (OK, it's only a $5 difference). It's just that you also get a bunch of sports channels that you generally have to spend more to get on other services.
And Fubo has started to stream major live sporting events in 4K resolution.
HDHomerun Premium ($34.99)
And then there's HDHomerum Premium. This is the new streaming service from the company that sells over-the-air streaming boxes that take a signal from an antenna and share it over your home network. And now it's added 45 streaming channels — all within the same application. It's maybe not the sexiest of interfaces (we still prefer the Channels app for that), but it's an interesting option at a decent price point.
There's not really a free trial with this one, but you do get a 2-minute preview on a channel before paying.
The sub-$50 streaming plan comparison
This massive chart breaks down what channels you can expect to find on each of our $50 streaming plan picks. In the case of a plan that has two options under $50, we've gone with the more expensive of the two, as to better show the available channels.
Live a Little
|ACC Network Extra||X|
|Adult Swim||x ||
|American Heroes Channel||x|
|Art Life Style TV||x|
|BBC World News||x||x|
|Big Ten Network||x||x||x||x|
|CBS Sports Network||x||x||x|
|Cheddar Big News||X||X||x|
|El Ray Network||x|
|ESPN Bases Loaded||x|
|ESPN Goal Line||x|
|Fox Sports Florida||x||x|
|Fox Sports Sun||x||x|
|Hallmark Movies and Mysteries||x||x|
|Lifetime Movies Network||x||x||x|
|Nat Geo Wild||X||x||x||x||x|
|NBC On Demand||X||x|
|NBC Regional Sports||X|
|NBC Sports Network||X||x||x||x||x||x|
|One America News||x|
|Pac 12 Networks||x|
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